Wordless Picture Books

Some of these books are simple and can be used with very young children.  Others are more sophisticated and can be used in a variety of ways with older readers and can open up discussion on a wide number of topics.  It is great to use them to introduce a topic or to look at the way a story is constructed.

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Recommended by Kate Shepherd & Mandy Clarke                   

 

Jeannie Baker has an international reputation because of her intricate collage work and textless picture books with an environmental theme.  
Where the Forest meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker  hardback   9780862033170 $27.95  pb  9780744513059  $16.95  Big Book  9780744563016 $44.95  is set in the Daintree rainforest in northern Queensland.  
The Story of Rosy Dock hardback  9780744596601 $29.95 pb  9780744594751 $16.95 shows the devastating effect of an introduced plant to the desert area of central Australia. 
Window hardback  9780744596762 $29.95  pb  9780744594867 $16.95 Big Book   9780744594874 $44.95 is a study of a changing view through the window of a house as more and more houses encroach on the countryside seen from the window. 
Belonging  hardback 9780744592276$29.95 pb 9781406305487  $16.95 Big Book   9781406309416 $44.95  follows the same format as Window  but it looks at an inner city suburb bleak in its drabness, ugly signs, graffiti and dilapidated houses and how over time the street is gradually transformed into a green inviting place where people can meet and enjoy their environment..
The Hidden Forest  hardback 9780744561630 $29.95 pb  9780744578768 $16.95 Big book  9781844285181 $44.95  This is set in the Tasmanian kelp forests, giving an eerie quality of luminous pale green and blue, as if looking through the water. As usual the collages are made up of natural materials - rock, sand, wood, feathers and seaweed. 
Mirror hardback 9781406309140  $39.95
Inspired by a trip to Morocco, Jeannie Baker has told two stories in the one book.  Page by page we experience a day in the life of two boys and their families;  one in inner Sydney and the other in a remote village in Morocco.  The landscapes are very different and also their clothes and their houses but in the way the families care for each other and for their communities they are essentially the same.  The two families are essentially a mirror image of each other.  The collage work is extraordinary and the images convey so much without the need for words.  (8 – 15 years)  KS

The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang  hardback 9780027081404  $27.00  pb 9780689803819  $10.00  There is humour, fantasy and suspense in this tale of an old lady who buys a punnet of bright red strawberries and then tries to get them home before a strawberry snatcher can take them from her.   There is a clever use of visual effects as the old lady tries to evade the thief.     (4 – 9 years)  KS

Zoom by  Istvan Banyai hardback 9780670858040  $25.00   pb 9780140557749  $9.99
Published in 1995, this wordless picture book has lots of appeal for graphic novel readers and kids who relate better to visuals than to text. It starts out with a close-up of a rooster's comb and pans back over a few pages to reveal that the rooster is part of a set of toy farm animals being played with by a little girl, and it's then revealed that this scene is on the cover of a magazine called Toys which is being read by a boy in a deck chair on a cruise ship; it's then revealed that this is a poster on the side of a bus, advertising California Cruise Lines, and so on. Absolutely fascinating. (5 years to adults)  - MC
Another title Re-Zoom  pb 9780140556940  $9.99 has a similar format.

Clown by Quentin Blake pb 9780099493617  $19.95
A little toy clown is thrown into a dustbin with other discarded toys but he dusts himself off and sets out to find himself a new home.  The strong narrative is easy to follow for young children.   (4 to 9 years)  KS

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs pb 9780141340098  $14.95
A delightful story in cartoon format about a little boy who invited the snowman he built into his house.  The snowman is very pleased and reciprocates by taking the little boy by the hand and flying with him over the snowy city.   (4 – 6 years)  KS

Leaf  by Stephen Michael King  pb 9781741696776  $16.99
This is a charming rather quirky story about a boy and a seed that shoots and begins growing in the hair on his head.  It is a story without words which succeeds in being lively and engaging.     (4 – 6 years)  KS

Frog where are you?  by Mercer Mayer  hardback 9780803728813  $10.00 
A Boy, a Dog and a Frog by Mercer Mayer  hardback 9780803728806  $10.00
These two small books are wordless extremely popular classics which follow the exploits of a boy and his animal friends as they wander through the woods.  (4 – 7 years)

Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug by Mark Newgarden  illustrated by Megan Cash Montague hardback  9781406315233 $29.95   A little black bug appears on the edge of Bow-Wow the puppy's food bowl as he is enjoying his breakfast one morning. This really bugs him and when the insect makes an exit through the dog-flap and out onto the street, Bow-Wow sets off in hot pursuit. He doggedly follows the pesky bug along the footpath around the block, with some hilarious encounters along the way. This wordless picture book is a little bit eccentric, very simple and very funny. A gem. (4-8 years)  MC

Sunshine by Jan Ormerod pb 9781845073909  $16.95
This delightful textless book shows the succession of events as a little girl wakes up, dad makes breakfast for everyone, mum goes back to sleep and then there is a frantic rush to get ready in time when they realize how late it is!
Similar format but on getting ready for bed is Moonlight pb 9781845073916  $16.95  (4 – 6 years)  KS

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney  hardback 9781406327595  $29.95  pb 9781406332049  $16.95  This wordless picture book is an evocative retelling of Aesop’s well-known fable.   Beautifully detailed illustrations set the story in the African Serengeti Plain.  It shows how the lion’s kindness is later repaid by the mouse as she gnaws through the ropes that bind him.   There are no words telling the actual story but some animal sounds such as lots of squeaks and a few roars and other noise from the creatures on the Plain enhance the illustrations.  (3 – 10 years)   KS

Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez  hardback 9781877467318  $22.99
Originally published in France, this delightful textless book has a surprise ending.  It is necessary to watch the pictures carefully to see what really happens in this story about a fox who steals a chicken from her friends and who then set out to rescue her.  (3 – 6 years) Sequels are The Fishing Trip hardback 9781877579240  $22.99 and The Treasure Thief hardback 9781877467844  $22.99   KS

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers  hardback 9781741145243  $29.99 
This is a delightfully expressive textless picture book.  The Boy is already a well-known character from two earlier picture books. (The Boy, The Bear, The Baron and the Bardand also Midsummer Knight pb  9781741754827  $15.95)  Escaping from some bullies, he finds himself in an Art Gallery and as he wanders past one of Vermeer’s famous paintings a little dog suddenly jumps out of the painting.  They explore together and then hop into another of Vermeer’s paintings and find themselves in the streets of Delft in the time of Vermeer.  More adventures follow.  There is so much to observe and so much action which is very easily followed in spite of the fact that there are no words.  Gregory Rogers has created some remarkable characters and a wonderful world through his vibrant and expressive illustrations.   (6 – 10 years)  KS
  
Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage  hardback  9780439700498  $24.99
This textless picture book follows the exploits of Walrus when he escapes from the zoo.  In order to evade capture by the pursuing zoo-keeper, Walrus disguises himself by taking on the poses from various people he sees such as firemen, artists and brick-layers.  Finally as he takes his place amount some high divers, Walrus’ skills are discovered and he happily goes back to the zoo to show off his amazing diving ability to an appreciative audience.  (4 – 7 years)   KS

More! by Peter Schossow  hardback  9781877467554  $14.99
Published originally in Germany, this picture book has a quirky charm.  A man is standing by the beach when he is suddenly swept up in to the air by wind and twirled this way and that.   He has a marvelous view of the countryside beneath and when he finally is brought back to safe ground he stands in delight and calls out “Again!” (3 – 7 years)     KS

The Arrival  by Shaun Tan  hardback 9780734406941  $39.99
This extraordinary book is textless and depicts many strange things and a world that we do not understand and yet at the same time it is not difficult to understand.  It shows the experience of an immigrant when he or she comes to a country where they know no one and understand very little.  Shaun Tan wants us to understand the feelings of apprehension as a young man leaves his young wife and daughter and his country to travel a vast distance to a completely different country where he can’t speak the language or read any signs. A country where the landscape and the creatures and even the pets are very different and where he doesn’t understand how things work or what is the purpose of so many strange things.  However on his arrival in this new land, he meets new friends who show him how to get to places and how things work and they also tell him the stories of how they too came to this new land.  And so we get the very moving stories of a number of immigrant families.  The illustrations are meticulously drawn in detailed panels of illustrations or sometimes full page illustrations in black and white or various shades of grey and sepia.  It is a very evocative and moving book.  It could be used with children from about 9 years up I think but it would be especially effective when used with older students in upper elementary and middle school.  (9 years to adult)  KS
Also The Red Tree by Shaun Tan hardback  9780734401724  $28.99 pb  9780734411372  $17.99  In this textless book a small girl feels depressed and the world looks bleak.  However when she returns to her room the red tree is covered with flowers and hope blossoms again.  An evocative and moving picture book.   (8 – 12 years)  KS

Flotsam by David Wiesner  hardback 9780618194575  $24.95  pb  9781849394499  $14.95 
A boy is enjoying himself at the beach with his magnifying glass when a wave washes up an old underwater camera.  When the reel of film is developed, the resulting images are from a fantastic underwater world where an octopus reads to its children by the light of an electric eel, where a turtle has cities of barnacles on its back and so on.   (4 – 14 years))  KS
Also Tuesday by David Wiesner  hardback 9780395551134  $24.99 pb  9780395870822  $10.99   It was a fantastic Tuesday when frogs sitting on a lily pad are seen flying in formation over the town.  So much to see in the strange but delightful events in this textless picture book which was awarded the Caldecott Medal.    (4 – 12 years)  KS